Politics Senators press for answers about Trump businesses

23:50  19 may  2017
23:50  19 may  2017 Source:   USA TODAY SPORTS

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no connect. Ethical questions about Trump ’s business interests (Ivanka Trump , that is).

  Senators press for answers about Trump businesses © Provided by USA Today

A group of Senate Democrats is asking the Trump Organization for details about its operations since President Donald Trump's inauguration, citing concerns about potential violations of parts of the U.S. Constitution banning the president from accepting gifts from foreign or domestic government entities.

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Because Trump did not divest from his business empire when he took office, the lawmakers say the ongoing financial relationship raises “serious concerns about whether the Trump Organization is effectively a pass-through” for income to reach the president, possibly in violation of the constitution. The U.S. Constitution forbids government officials from accepting emoluments, or gifts, from foreign powers, and also forbids the president from receiving gifts “from the United States, or any of them."

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On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to lower taxes, increase fiscal spending through infrastructure investments, and work to decrease onerous business regulations. Senators pressed Yellen for answers on Thursday, but she was non-committal.

The 17 senators who signed the letter dated Thursday are asking Trump Organization to provide answers to a series of questions about the sources of its profits, and how the company segregates and accounts for foreign profits.

Citing the findings of a USA Today investigation published in April, the senators asked the Trump Organization to explain what steps it has taken to ensure foreign governments are not purchasing Trump real estate through limited liability corporations.

The investigation found that Trump companies had sold at least 14 luxury condos and home-building lots for about $23 million from Election Day through mid-April. Of those, half were sold to limited liability companies with no names listed in deeds, obscuring buyers’ identities.

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The legislators' letter also asks questions about a range of issues including the U.S. Secret Service’s payments for golf carts at Mar-A-Lago, trademarks recently registered with the Chinese government, and pending trademark applications in other nations. Lawmakers also asked a series of questions concerning a plan announced in January to donate profits from foreign government business at Trump properties to the U.S. Treasury, including the mechanism used to determine whether hotel guests are using funds from foreign governments.

Although Trump and his attorneys have said he's separated himself from his businesses, the trust in which he has placed his assets is run by his sons. Trump is the only beneficiary and can withdraw funds at any time, and he is expected to receive updates on the finances of his business during the course of the presidency.

“It is essential for the American people to know that the president’s decisions are not affected by his personal financial interest,” the letter states.

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The letter was signed by 17 Senate Democrats, including Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and six other members of the committee.

A Trump Organization spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the letter. The Democratic lawmakers asked the Trump Organization to respond "as soon as possible," but do not have legal authority to force the company to answer questions.

A four-story American flag hangs April 13, 2017, over an Austrian-crystal chandelier in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington.© Beth J. Harpaz, AP A four-story American flag hangs April 13, 2017, over an Austrian-crystal chandelier in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

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An across-the-board business tax of 15 percent would give individuals an incentive to characterize themselves as independent contractors, greatly lowering their tax rate.The problem: an across-the-board business tax of 15 percent intended not only for large multinational companies, but also for partnerships and sole proprietorships that are also known as pass-through businesses. Trump administration officials have said the proposed tax is a critical way to encourage hiring and investing in the United States by companies large and small.

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